This has been a very good month for the Baltimore Orioles. The next one has the potential to be even better - and certainly more memorable.
The Orioles try to make an already excellent homestand even better Sunday when they continue a four-game set against the Minnesota Twins.
After losing three straight to the Chicago Cubs last weekend, the Orioles returned home with their AL East lead cut to six games over the Yankees. Baltimore rebounded quickly from the surprising sweep, winning three of four against Tampa Bay before taking the first two games of this series.
Jimmy Paredes homered and drove in two runs in his second game with the Orioles (78-56), who got a tiebreaking sacrifice fly from Chris Davis in a 3-2 victory Saturday.
Baltimore improved to 18-9 in August and increased its division lead to eight games over New York.
Thrust into the starting lineup with first baseman Steve Pearce nursing a strained abdominal muscle, Paredes had a run-scoring double in the fourth and a homer - his first since May 21, 2013, with Houston - in the sixth.
'I was ready to go,' Paredes said. 'It feels good, I'm excited. We have a very good team here, we have fun, and we play the game the right way, hard. We're working hard. We're trying to make the playoffs and win the World Series.'
A good portion of Baltimore's success can be traced to a bullpen that has posted a 1.06 ERA in the last 14 games. Orioles relievers were unscored upon in six straight games before Tommy Hunter surrendered a run Saturday.
'We're playing close games, our offense is getting just enough runs to where the pitching can go in and shut them down,' closer Zach Britton said. 'That's kind of what we've been doing the whole season.'
The Twins (59-76) went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and lost for the sixth time in seven games.
Minnesota has already beaten Wei-Yin Chen (13-4, 3.76 ERA) once this season and will try to do it again Sunday.
The left-hander failed to complete five innings for the first time since June 28 on Tuesday against Tampa Bay. Chen allowed two runs and seven hits with a season high-matching three walks before exiting with two outs in the fifth of a 4-2 victory.
He still held an opponent to three runs or fewer for the eighth time in nine starts, going 6-1 with a 3.05 ERA during that stretch.
Chen suffered his first loss in three career decisions to the Twins on May 3, yielding three runs in five innings of a 6-1 defeat.
Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer are both 4 for 8 against Chen.
Ricky Nolasco (5-9, 5.62) has struggled most of this season but is coming off one of his best performances of the year. He pitched three-hit ball over seven scoreless innings Tuesday at Kansas City and was in line for the win before Glen Perkins surrendered a two-run walkoff homer in a 2-1 loss.
The right-hander posted a 9.20 ERA in losing each of his three previous starts.
Nolasco notched his only complete game of the season in a 3-0 loss to the Orioles on May 2, throwing a nine-hitter.
Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is 4 for 48 over his last 11 games and 1 for 14 lifetime against Nolasco.
Baltimore made a pair of trades Saturday, acquiring outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox and infielder Kelly Johnson from Boston to bolster its bench in the wake of injuries to Pearce and Manny Machado.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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